While zombie drama Maggie seems intended as a showcase for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting range, the star’s performance is smothered by the film’s deeply affected style. Schwarzenegger plays Wade, a taciturn farmer whose daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) has become infected with the “Necroambulist virus.” His ostensibly conflicted emotions are almost exclusively presented through stifling extreme close-ups, reducing him to faraway stares and chin-to-chest sighs, making Maggie an object lesson in how not to film your actors.
Neophyte screenwriter John Scott’s spartan, Cormac McCarthy–esque scenario is unfortunately just as heavy-handed as first-time director Henry Hobson’s overwrought direction. Wade brings his daughter back to their family farm after finding her in a hospital facility. But the doctor is clear: Maggie is going to turn into a zombie soon, and Wade must say goodbye to her. Maggie is fixated on Wade’s emotional journey as a father who must outlive his sick child, with everyone and everything around him an accessory to his grief.
Wade’s manic mood is visualized through an oppressively gauzy, Instagram-like camera filter that could be described as “Oatmeal Sunset” or “Magic-Hour Treacle.” And Wade’s hypersensitivity to Maggie’s presence is mirrored in the film’s distractingly hyper-developed sound design, from the rattling of a shell in Wade’s shotgun to the creaking of wooden stairs under his feet.
Schwarzenegger may be Maggie‘s main attraction, but he’s so inessential to the film’s drama that he could easily be replaced by a grimacing, monosyllabic pull-string doll.